Well the Two Gay Geeks have returned from attending 2 out of the 4 days at Phoenix Comicon 15. Wait one minute! Did I just say 2 out of the 4 days? Yes I did. Let me share with you what we observed while at this auspicious event.
Comicon is something that we eagerly look forward to every year. We have had the pleasure of attending some of the most outrageous panels, both large and small, not to mention meet some truly interesting people throughout the entire convention. However, things just felt “different” this time around.
To start things off, we were somewhat dismayed by the guests who were to be featured this year. Yes, there were some big names like Ron Perlman, Edward James Olmos, Karl Urban just to name a few. However most of these guests aren’t the type of guests we would go out of our way to see. I admit, this all boils down to personal taste, but I can say that, with the exception of Karl Urban, there really weren’t any big celebrity panels that caught my attention this year. However, that isn’t to say that we didn’t attend any.
Thursday was simply a chance to get familiar with the “lay of the land.” We arrived after we both got off of work at our paying jobs and decided to promptly go up to where our favorite local author Gini Koch was doing her book signing. After visiting with her for about 20 minutes we made our way down to the Dealer’s Room to see what was available, and if there were any vendors selling interesting new work. It was to our benefit that we met an extremely innovative artist who uses some form of thin sheet metal to do is artwork. It was spectacular to look at and we chatted him up for a few minutes, and hopefully we’ll be putting together an interview with him soon.
Regarding the panels, we didn’t attend any until Friday. We first made our way into the Daredevil panel where a podcaster and comic book enthusiast was discussing Daredevil in all of its different forms over the years, ranging from the comic book, to various storylines and artwork during its comic book run, to then finally the movie and Netflix TV series. He was very well informed and very passionate about the subject. He engaged in some really deep geeking that easily took up the Q & A portion of the panel right up to the very last minute.
Later came what was probably the best panel for me during this con, and that was for the web series Star Trek Continues. Series star and executive producer, Vic Mignogna, first greeted us, and then introduced us to the newly released episode “The White Iris” (Click here to view the episode on YouTube).
While I didn’t entirely agree with the main premise of this episode, I still found myself enjoying because it was Star Trek. Vic is a fan. His entire cast and crew on this series is comprised of fans, and whether the story is good or not, it’s that enthusiasm which helps to make the episodes enjoyable enough to watch. Also, as I started to lose myself in this latest episode, I was reminded as to why I love this series so much. Afterwards, most of the cast and crew of the series came out to take questions, share a few laughs, and even gave us a surprise or two. This is what I truly enjoyed with this year’s Comicon. Not just having a celebrity guest interact with the fans, but seeing an entire cast interact with each other. Late that same evening we attended the “Phoenix Comicon Film Festival – Horror II” and watched a very interesting short film that Keith will be writing a review on, and that’s how we ended our time with Phoenix Comicon 15.
Now at this point you’re probably wondering why we didn’t go back for days 3 and 4. Well simply put, we didn’t care too much for the programming as it was presented in the Program Guide. The descriptions were terribly vague which made it difficult to actually want to attend any one particular panel. The convention center is pretty big and sometimes one has to do a lot of walking to get from one place to the next, and neither of us felt compelled to have to race to get to one panel based on a vague description. Having something just a bit more specific might have allowed us to make better decisions as to what to attend. Instead, we just looked at the entire schedule with great apathy and decided that we couldn’t justify the expense of parking our car nearby simply based on what was being described in the guide.
This leads me to my second complaint, but this is not so much with Comicon itself, but with the city of Phoenix and the surrounding areas that made parking available to convention goers. The parking at the Convention Center started at $15 on Thursday, but that parking is also extremely limited. However, in the past we have arrived at the center early enough so that parking was never an issue. Well this time it was, because starting on Friday they would only allow people with a prepaid parking pass to use their garage. It was with that we went on our search to find a parking garage nearby where we could leave our car and walk over to the convention center. That’s when we discovered, to our horror, that the surrounding parking lots and structures were quite literally GOUGING the consumer. There were a few garages that started charging at $20, which we found barely acceptable, but as we tried somewhere closer we discovered that parking was available anywhere from $30 to $50!!! Seriously??? Well needless to say we drove out a bit and found a garage that was only charging $20 and we walked to the convention center (and to do so during the day at the end of May is not always fun here in Phoenix). It was the parking, in combination with the programming, which caused us to give up on going to days 3 and 4 of Comicon.
Let me add this last bit of info here. Upon some investigating I learned that, for a very brief moment last year, Phoenix Comicon was actually the second largest Comicon in the country, only surpassed by San Diego’s. Since that time there were several others that did eclipse last year’s convention, but it was that brief moment which sparked the imagination of those running the con. Apparently it was then decided to try to make Phoenix Comicon more in line with San Diego’s Comicon by putting a stronger emphasis on movie and TV stars. Now while I view this as all well and good, it was the choice of celebrity guests that I questioned. Yes, Christopher Lloyd is enormously popular given his contribution to various movie franchises, but he’s not Doc Brown in real life. He’s much more calm and relaxed and speaks very quietly at times. For my money, this is not the kind of celebrity I wish to see. Danielle Panabaker was also on hand, but she’s only now just beginning to break big because of her work in The Flash. Had she been paired up with another cast member, or even possibly the entire cast it would have made that panel far more entertaining. San Diego has also in the past given fans various sneak previews and surprises that the rest of the world doesn’t know about yet. However there was none of that. Instead we had guests that didn’t exactly appeal to me. That’s not to say that they don’t have any appeal at all. I’m quite sure that there were fans that were banging down the doors just to get an early seat to hear some of these guests. What I am saying is, if Phoenix Comicon wishes to be more in line with San Diego’s, then the guest line-up will need to be beefed up even more so, to where there is something that can appeal to everybody throughout most of the scheduled days of the convention. Yes, this is a first, and I do applaud the organizers of Phoenix Comicon for taking this step in trying to evolve and grow our once little Comicon, and while it didn’t knock it out of the park as far as we’re concerned, it was a good (to continue using the baseball analogy) single hit, perhaps almost a double. I hope they keep trying to make the convention a better one, and perhaps one day, they’ll get that grand slam they desperately want.